If you wanted to get better at how you spend your money, what’s one of the first things to do? Track where you’re spending your money.
What if you wanted to improve your diet? Track your diet. Just by noticing what you’re putting into your body, you’ll naturally “spend” your calories more wisely.
There are all kinds of practices and tools for tracking money and calories, yet we rarely track the most precious asset that we have—our time.
Logging my time is a practice I’ve been doing for years. Just several days in a row, once or twice per year, makes a noticeable improvement in how I spend my time going forward.
Starting today, I will be tracking my time for the rest of the week. If you really want to become a better manager of your time, I encourage you to join me for this practice!
Just by tracking it, without *trying* to make any improvements, you will find yourself automatically using your time more wisely.
Awareness brings natural motivation and change.
Another huge benefit is that you will be getting mindfulness practice, throughout the day, without having to sit on the cushion (although if that helps you, do it as well!)
In time logging, we keep coming back to the awareness of what we just did for the past hour, half hour, or 15 minutes, whatever increment you wish to track. Essentially, you are engaging in the practice of returning to conscious awareness and choice.
There are 3 steps for time logging:
STEP 1. Setting yourself up for success by deciding the one tool you’ll use, instead of writing your log in different places.
You can simply keep a pad of small post-it notes, or a notebook that is small enough to have with you everywhere you go.
If you prefer your phone, try one of these apps:
aTimeLogger — iPhone or Android — http://www.atimelogger.com
Eternity Time Log — iPhone only — www.komorian.com/eternity.html
I now prefer the Eternity app, but both are excellent. Both will require you to set up the categories of where your time goes. Just do your best for now, as you can always edit or add more categories later.
STEP 2. Just do it!
Use the tool you’ve decided, and throughout the day, log where your time goes.
The simplest way is to notice whenever you haven’t logged your time in awhile (e.g. every hour) and write down what you remember doing since you last logged. Don’t get too detailed. Just write a quick note is fine.
The advanced way is to notice whenever you *switch* activities and write down what you’re going to be doing. You’re basically timing how long it takes you to do the next/current task. I find this really helps me stay on track with purposeful use of my time.
A couple notes:
Perfectionism is not the goal.
Sometimes you might forget to log for hours at a time. It’s ok. It’s a practice! Like in meditation: when you notice that your mind has been wandering, you don’t blame yourself… You actually congratulate yourself for noticing that you wandered, and then gently return to conscious awareness again. This is the same with time logging.
However well or poorly you do it, you’ll reap the positive benefit of greater conscious of how you’re investing your time.
The goal is your own awareness.
You’re not going to show your time log to anyone. You might not even analyze it. The mere act of writing down how you actually spent your time will increase you “time awareness.”
It’s like weight-loss programs that ask participants to keep a “food journal” — just the act of writing down what we’re eating will make us automatically eat more wisely.
Honesty is important.
Even if you’re spending time doing something you don’t want to do, write it down.
For example, the last time I logged my time (which I ended up doing for 2 weeks in a row), I naturally dissolved my video game addiction, without “trying” hard. In the first few days, I did play some games, but then I wrote it in my time log. After those first few days, I automatically stopped because I became more conscious of where my time was going, and how else I could be spending my time.
STEP 3. Review your time log.
This step is optional. If you just want to get started, simply do the above 2 steps!
When you’re ready to take it up a notch, review your time log everyday. Try doing this in the morning — look at yesterday’s time log — and see how you might improve how you will spend your time today.
Advanced — evaluate your activities right before & right after you do them. This something I’ve done before when I was still trying to figure out the best use of my day.
When I was about to start an activity, I wrote the start time in my time log, what the activity is, and which of the 3 letters below probably will apply to this activity.
Then after I finish the activity, I write down the end time, and underline which of the letters indeed was true and cross out the letters that wasn’t true:
B = Benefit (will / did this activity benefit someone else?)
E = Enjoyment (will / did I enjoy this activity?)
L = Learning (will / did I learn something useful for fulfilling my purpose?)
This had the wonderful effect of enjoying my activities more, experiencing more learning along the way, and also, I tended to choose more beneficial activities.
Try time logging even for even just 1 day, and let me know how it goes for you!
May we all use our precious time more purposefully, and for the greater good.